Two Matts, Two Candids, and a Boston Bike Report.

First, a hat tip to Matt O’Keefe over at Seven Cycles for letting me know about this candid shot grabbed of me riding, taken by “Lovely Bicycle” over on flickr:

Except Bicycles

I should have known better than to ride through intersections with lovely photographers.

That was me riding into the city for the third annual Boston bikes Report, where Nicole Freedman, Boston’s dearest bike Czar, showed a packed BPL auduitorium just how far the city’s come since being labeled the “Worst Bicycling City in the World.” It was at the report I ran into another Matt, fellow blogger at “Westwood Biker“.

My original plan was to take notes and write a comprehensive report for those who couldn’t make it to read, Q&A and all. Unfortunately, I lost all my notes after forgetting to save it properly on the phone I was taking them with, so until the report slides with the exact details and statistics are made public, I’m only going to list some of the few points I can recall from my memory for now (in no particular order. Hopefully my memory isn’t too fuzzy) Please feel free to let me know if I get anything wrong.

  • Boston’s rolled out a ton of bike lanes: 5 miles in 2008, 10 miles in 2009, and 20 in 2010. This surpasses the average of 10 miles/year of some other major cities
  • New education programs are underway. Bicycle law enforcement and training will begin to be implemented in the police academy. Nicole’s grand “Roll it Forward” program to repair and redistribute donated bikes has been successful so far, as well as her efforts to get kids on bikes, and a pamphlet created to teach drivers how to deal with cyclists that is being sent to every driver in the state.
  • Bicycle parking increased by over 700 bike parking spaces
  • Boston’s very first cycle-track on Western Ave. is a great sign of things to come, (hopefully).
  • Boston has the highest helmet use rate out of any city, with 74% of a random survey of riders wearing helmets. “Cost” was the number one reason listed for “not wearing a helmet” in a survey done at BU’s Bike Safety Day. (wow).
  • Bike week and Bike Fridays have been a tremendous success and key to getting new riders out to hopefully become regular riders. I was surprised to find myself on the big screen for this slide, in full drum-biking action on Comm. Ave. during one bike-friday morning:

  • And of course, it’s not just the efforts of Boston Bikes that matters, it’s everyone’s efforts as a collective community

There was a solid hour of Q&A, and some of the important points raised I remember were:

  • Q:”Can you comment on the recent news of the increase in fines up to $150 for a cyclist who runs a red light?”

    Nicole’s answer was along the lines of “the motivation is to educate cyclists, not penalize every single cyclist who runs a red light, but the fine is a sliding scale that can increase up to $150. For example, the guy who is flagrantly violating all the traffic laws will probably get the $150 fine…Just don’t be the one trying to score points for getting a group of pedestrians to separate as you weave through them…Getting people to follow the rules really requires a cultural shift, and our efforts are based on this notion.”

    I have other thoughts on the proposed fine with respect to game theory economics which I’ll save for a later post.

  • “Is there anything that can be done to better plow the bike lanes and the bike racks?” Nicole’s Answer: Right now, no, because there’s nowhere to really put the record amounts of snow Boston’s been getting in the past few weeks.
  • Edit: Thanks to Bob for the following info regarding this man:

The guy asked people to stand or raise their hand if they had been struck by a driver. A large number of people stood up.

He then asked people who had been struck by a cyclist to stand up or raise their hand. A handful of people stood up. He asked who had to go to the hospital, and almost all of them sat down.

Then he asked for people to stand if, when they were struck by a car, they had to go to the hospital. Lots of people stood back up….

It was great to see the tremendous progress Boston’s made over the past few years, and the outstanding job done by not just Nicole, but everyone involved in the bicycling community. There’s a clear direction towards more education and even better bike infrastructure like cycle-tracks, and I’d say that’s a pretty solid direction for Boston to be headed in. As Nicole remarked, after being asked for advice from planners of some other cities tring to improve their biking situation, her immediate thought was, “we’re just glad to not be labeled the “worst” bicycle-friendly city anymore.

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9 Responses to Two Matts, Two Candids, and a Boston Bike Report.

  1. b says:

    The guy asked people to stand or raise their hand if they had been struck by a driver. A large number of people stood up.

    He then asked people who had been struck by a cyclist to stand up or raise their hand. A handful of people stood up. He asked who had to go to the hospital, and almost all of them sat down.

    Then he asked for people to stand if, when they were struck by a car, they had to go to the hospital. Lots of people stood back up….

  2. b says:

    Ps: someone ask Nicole how she got to the presentation. You might be interested in her answer.

  3. Glad you found my picture! I usually don’t photograph people without asking them, so my apologies for that – but I couldn’t help it this time; you were one of the very few cycling and it looked like it needed to be captured : )

    b – What does it matter how she got to the presentation?

    It sounds like a good talk and I regret not having been able to make it. My one point of dislike-itude is that Nicole lists helmet use as if it’s somehow connected to infrastructure development and to Boston’s status as a cycling-friendly city. Regardless of one’s stance on helmets, I don’t see the relevance of what percentage of cyclists in Boston wear them. Helmet use is not universally accepted as a positive thing or something to strive for, and if anything, cities with the best infrastructure and lowest accident rates tend to have the fewest percentage of cyclists wearing helmets. Just something to consider.

  4. Charlie says:

    The snow plowing issue is a big one right now. The problem I see is not necessarily that the bike lanes aren’t plowed but that the City is allowing people to park their cars in them. My opinion (although probably not a very popular one): If the parking lane is too full of snow to fit a car, then parking should be prohibited there. Bicyclists should not be squeezed out of the bike lanes so that people can store their cars on the street.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I commented at the Boston Bikes report about bike lanes. Perhaps some people couldn’t hear me because I wasn’t holding the microphone close enough. Here’s what I said- “Bicyclists are told to ride 3 to 4 feet from parked cars to avoid being doored. But you are at risk of being doored if you ride that close! The door on a 4-door Prius sticks out 3 feet & on a 2-door BMW sticks out 4 feet. My bicycle handlebars are 14 inches wide on each side. So for a 4-door car there is 3 feet for the door, 14 inches for my handlebar and about a foot for the distance I would comfortably ride next to a parked car & should the door open not instinctively swerve & be hit by a passing car. That comes to a bit over 5 feet clearance needed for a 4-door car or 6 feet clearance for a 2-door car to remove the risk of being doored.
    I measured a bike lane on Comm. Ave near Packard’s Corner. It measured 5 feet from the outside of the white line next to the parked cars to the outside of the white line next to the traffic lane.
    I want people to know that the safest place to ride for that bike lane is on the left hand white line next to the traffic lane or a foot to the left of the white line in the traffic lane to guarantee not being doored. There is an excellent youtube video demonstrating this called “Avoiding the door zone”. Nicole said that research showed the lanes were safe. I emailed her asking for the research which she did not give me. I also stated in the email that Comm. lanes should be safe enough for an escorted eight year old child. Her response was “We all have the same collective goal of making the streets as safe as possible, especially for novice, young and old users. “

  6. Paul Schimek says:


    1. People who think bike lanes have to go on every street, even where there is not room for them, apparently cannot do math.

    2. You mean that it’s not intuitively obvious that the safest place to ride in a bike lane is — not really in the bike lane at all, but on the lane line separating the bike lane from the car lane (oops — I mean travel lane)?

    3. The South Huntington Avenue bike lanes are 6 ft wide instead of 5 ft, next to parking lanes that are 8 ft instead of 6 ft. There happened to be ample room for this here (as there was before bike lanes, of course), but so far no where else in the city are bike lanes adjacent to parked cars actually wide enough to safely ride in at normal speed. (You still have to watch out for right-turning cars though.)

  7. john says:

    What was said about bike sharing? Last year I was there when Nicole announced the bike sharing program that would be coming spring 2010, but later I saw it was scrapped for a smaller # of bikes and put out for rebid. Is the smaller one going to happen this year? I was in DC last month and saw their program in action (not Bixi) which was able to work year round, which makes a lot more sense.

  8. greg says:

    Bike sharing is definitely coming. I don’t remember when (next summer?) but the plan sounds pretty comprehensive, with stations all over the place, especially in touristy and college/university areas.

  9. Pingback: Tonight: Live Blogging from the 4th Annual 2012 Boston Bike Report! | theHumble Cyclist

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